The U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has landed in Islamabad after visiting the troops in Afghanistan. During this short visit, which is the first of a U.S. defense secretary after a lapse of four years, Hagel will meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the newly appointed COAS Raheel Sharif besides top politicians and high-ranking officials.
The main point on the agenda in his meetings with prime minister of Pakistan and COAS would be the issue of CIA operated drone strikes. An issue that has prompted protests from the opposition Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in the sensitive north-west province of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.
The club yielding mobs belonging to PTI and JI against drone strikes that are carried out in the tribal belt as well as the settled areas of Pakistan in a week-long protest stopped the NATO supply trucks that pass through the province and reach Afghanistan through the Torkham Pass.
PTI came to power on the promise that once in power it will stop the CIA operated drone strikes in the province. The government of PML-N in the center is also in agreement with the opposition on this issue. Both Imran Khan lead PTI and the PML-N want these drone strikes to end which are causing wide-scale collateral damage. To date thousands of innocent civilians have been the unsuspecting targets of these drone strikes carried out by the CIA against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). These drone strikes have achieved their objectives, as most recently the chief of TTP Hakeemullah Mehsud was killed with his comrades in one of these strikes but the opponent stress that the collateral damage caused by these strikes far out weighs the results achieved against the actual target, the TTP.
The meeting of secretary Hagel with the newly appointed army chief of Pakistan is being given much importance because in Pakistan the actual power rests not with the elected representatives of the people but with the head of the army. It is to be kept in mind that Pakistan has been ruled by military dictators for most part of its history and even today while there is an elected parliament in place the real decision-making powers still rest with the chief of the army.
Secretary Hagel will try his best to persuade Islamabad that these drone strikes are in the best interest of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition he is to brief his counterpart Chaudhry Nisar that in order to ensure lasting peace in the region after the proposed withdrawal of the ISAF and the NATO troops , these drone strikes will be the only viable option left for both Pakistan and America to keep the menace of TTP and the Afghan Taliban at bay.
Whatever the actual outcome of the talks that the secretary Hagel is going to engage in Islamabad, it is predicted by the political commentators that the CIA run drone strikes are not going to stop any time soon. Secretary Hagel will try his best to convince Islamabad that these strikes , unfortunately causing collateral damage are the best route to follow in the war against terror.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada
Kansas City News